First Impressions

Chapter 1 - Preparations

Disclaimer: I don't own Twilight. As if you didn't know.

Author's Note: I'd like to thank BlondieakaRobin for her suggestion to get started with writing this particular story and for her great suggestions that made it better. This scene was the reason I got into fanfiction to begin with. I just needed a little kick to get going. Thanks, Blondie. :o)

And thanks, once again, the incomparable KlutzLikeBella for her untiring encouragement and support in pouring over draft after draft. I'd be lost without you, KLB! If you haven't read her work yet, you should – especially "Battle Wounds", which made me fall in love with Jasper. Thanks KLB.

Carlisle's POV

I waited on the front lawn until Edward disappeared from sight into the woods.

I couldn't keep the grin from my face. I had never thought to see Edward like this – so unguarded, so . . . happy.

For so many years, I had wrestled with my guilt over the decision to change Edward. I agonized about whether I had done the right thing in 'saving' him. I had saved him from the death his illness would have brought, but I knew he considered himself damned. As the decades passed, I grew more uncertain of my decision that day. The walls around Edward grew ever thicker and higher, shutting out not only humanity, but our kind as well. He never sought the company of others, especially female companionship. He politely but pointedly turned down every woman who expressed an interest in him – human and vampire alike – and over the decades, there had been quite a number of both. I worried that I had changed him too young, before he developed the ability to form relationships outside of our family, especially the lasting bond with a companion.

Now, seeing him fresh from Bella's side, I felt as if a tremendous weight had been lifted from me and a feeling of joyful exuberance exploded from inside me.

Today, I felt like a man granted a pardon; as if the crime I feared I had committed had never occurred.

I was redeemed.

Turning, I walked back to our house and to my waiting family.

Stepping into the house, I quietly summoned my family, "I'd like to see you all in the living room now please."

They appeared quickly. None of them had gone very far, after Edward's return. They all wanted to hear the details of his day with Bella Swan, how she'd reacted to his revelations of the truth of our nature and how he'd managed not to kill her.

Not that Edward was forthcoming with the details they sought. He'd admitted to taking her to the meadow and spending the day with her, but he refused to explain where he'd been all night until these early morning hours. Emmett and Jasper had ribbed him about watching Bella sleep again, but I felt there was more to the story. Perhaps he'd tell me later, when his siblings weren't hanging on his every word, looking for an excuse to tease him.

"So is it true? Alice is right? Edward's bringing Bella home?" Esme asked excitedly as I closed the front door behind me.

"Yeah, it's hard to follow your conversation when we can only hear half of it," Emmett complained from his position on the couch. "Actually, less than half," he griped.

I smiled at him. He'd been complaining for years that he couldn't understand most of what passed between Edward and me. Knowing Edward as well as I did, I often knew what he was going to say before he voiced it. I needed few words from him to understand him, making our conversations more silent than spoken. It was a constant source of frustration to our family.

Esme stood on the staircase, halfway down to the main floor. I was amused as I realized that she too must have been listening from upstairs to my conversation outside with Edward and had darted down as soon as she heard Edward leave. I knew she was torn between wanting to give Edward his privacy and wanting to hear the details of our conversation.

At my nod confirming Edward planned to invite Bella here, Esme beamed. She was practically shaking with excitement.

Alice was hopping on the balls of her feet, unable to contain her excitement. My youngest daughter lived in a different time than the rest of us, experiencing her life through possible futures. When a future she had eagerly anticipated finally unfolded, she was usually beside herself with excitement and impatience, like a child watching a loved one unwrap a gift she had picked out. I chuckled as I pictured Alice as a child, chanting "open it, open it, open it!" She had known that Edward would invite Bella home as soon as he made his decision shortly after midnight. She had had a difficult time convincing the rest of my children that not only had Edward not killed Bella, but that she would come visiting that same morning. Everyone had refused to make good on the bets they made, opting to wait until they heard the truth for themselves from Edward when he got home. Honestly, how could they doubt Alice?

And Alice had been seeing, for weeks, that Bella would become one of us. She and Edward argued almost constantly about those particular visions.

"Don't get too excited. He's going to invite her. That doesn't mean she's coming. She'll probably decline. It's early to be expecting her to meet our whole family – especially given that Bella knows exactly what we are." I cautioned them. I didn't want to squelch their enthusiasm, but I did want to brace Esme and Alice for Bella's probable refusal. I hated seeing either of them disappointed.

"Oh, she'll come," Alice stated with gleeful certainty, while purposefully ignoring Rosalie's angry scowl.

"Are you sure?" Esme confirmed.

"Actually," Alice chirped, "I can see Bella spending a lot of time here. As a human, I mean. I see her here all the time now."

"Oh that's just great!" Rosalie snapped angrily. "I guess it doesn't matter what I want! The safety of this family means nothing to any of you! It's all about Perfect Edward and what he wants. It's not like this is my home too! I can't believe you're letting her come here. You're all treating her like she's some kind of house pet. She's not some stray that followed Edward home. She has a home and it isn't here. She's dangerous to us. She's stupid and she's dangerous."

Jasper cringed as the waves of Rosalie's anger washed over him. Though her fury wasn't directed at him, he still could not escape its effect on him. I didn't envy him his talent.

"Rosalie," Esme started, trying to soothe our daughter's anger.

But Rosalie wasn't listening. "No!" she snapped. "I won't be part of this stupid charade. I don't want her here. I don't like her. She doesn't belong here. One of us is going to kill her eventually. It's inevitable. And then I'll say I told you so!"

Barely pausing, Rosalie continued, "And you can stop trying to calm me down, Jasper! Don't think I don't know what you're doing! You of all people should object to her coming here. The house will reek of human for days. You won't be able to draw a breath in here without your throat burning."

"I can manage," he stated stoically. "This is important to everyone." But his eyes strayed to Alice. I understood what he felt – Jasper would do anything for Alice.

Rosalie snarled angrily, "I hope 'everyone' still feels bringing her here was important when one of us has killed her."

Frowning, Emmett reached out to touch Rosalie's shoulder but she shook him off, and turned the full force of her fury on him.

"No, Emmett. You know I'm right. Edward's being an idiot and we're all going to pay for it." She turned furious eyes to the rest of us. "I refuse to have anything to do with this."

She got up and stormed out of the house through the back door.

I sighed with frustration. Rosalie could be so unwilling to accept change and once she'd made up her mind, nothing could sway her.

"I'll talk with her," Emmett mumbled, embarrassed by his wife's behavior.

I nodded silently and Emmett paused for a moment. My son's disappointment was clear. He had wanted a chance to finally meet Bella as much as the rest of us. I knew he'd seen her at school, but he'd never spoken with her and he'd wanted the opportunity. But Rosalie had forced him to choose between herself and Bella and, for Emmett, there could be no other decision. Quietly, he left to follow my daughter out to the garage, where I could hear her already banging tools to vent her anger.

Esme's eyes met mine. After nearly a century of marriage, I didn't need Edward's talent to know what she was thinking. She was afraid. She feared that we would terrify Bella, that we would ruin Edward's chances at happiness, that Rosalie would vent towards the unsuspecting girl and that somehow we couldn't manage this meeting today. But most especially, she was afraid that Rosalie was right and that one of us would hurt Bella and that it would break Edward. Because it was becoming clear to both Esme and myself that Edward loved Bella beyond all else. She was his companion, despite the fact that she was human.

And I couldn't reassure Esme that her fears were baseless. I was worried about those things as well.

However, as head of this family, I had to hide my own doubts and show confidence in my decisions. My family deserved a strong leader; I would not fail them by being anything less than strong. I had decided to support Edward in his choices regarding Bella and I wouldn't back down now. I had to trust in his choices and have faith that everything would work out in the end.

Hiding my own worries, I put my arm around Esme's small shoulders and drew her to me. I let my embrace offer her the comfort that I couldn't honestly express in words. I couldn't bring myself to lie to her and settled for the reassurances that I could truly believe. "It'll be all right, Esme. We'll take this one step at a time and we'll see where it leads us." In truth, that was the best any of us could do in this life. We had to trust that things would work out as they were meant to.

"It'll be fine, Esme," Alice's cheerfulness was undeterred. "Bella's still coming. And I still see her visiting often in the next weeks," she stated confidently. "And she'll be my sister too, one day," she added gleefully.

I decided not to argue with Alice about Bella joining our family. Edward was doing enough of that for all of us. Not that I was opposed to Bella joining us – what I'd seen already of this young lady showed her to be courageous and intelligent – but I didn't want to discuss changing her today. Not when there was already so much to consider and plan.

Turning my attention back to the present, I addressed Jasper and Alice, "Neither of you were with us when we negotiated the treaty with the Quileutes. It's one thing to interact with humans in an everyday manner, when they don't know us for what we are and when their fears are purely instinctual. It's another thing entirely when they do know what we are and what we're capable of. It magnifies their fears a hundredfold.

"At the time we negotiated with the Quileutes, we carefully orchestrated the meetings to ensure that we didn't alarm the tribal elders and that we maintained an air of calm and control at all times. As you know, our efforts were successful then. We'll use the same principles with Bella."

I met their eyes, each in turn, ensuring I had their complete attention. "When Bella arrives, we will ensure that she has space – what she might consider a safe distance between herself and us. Yes, Jasper, I know," I said forestalling his comment, "the distance is irrelevant, but it lends the illusion of safety to humans."

At his nod, I continued, "Only after she's acknowledged us do we approach her at all. Any movements, particularly if they are towards her, must be very slow – nothing sudden. And only one of us will approach at a time. The others will hang back until she's adjusted. Jasper, Edward asks that you keep your distance from Bella, at least at first."

"That's probably a… wise decision. The last thing I would wish to do is harm the girl. I know my control is not as good as it could be," Jasper replied, chagrin clear in his tone. He hated the fact that his ability to restraint his instincts was so much weaker than ours.

It was not something for which I faulted him. His life before Alice was not conducive to building self-restraint. Jasper had had to live through nearly a century of blood, battles and death before Alice found him. I was very proud of his willingness to learn this new lifestyle and of his efforts. He had come so far. I held eye contact with him and deliberately concentrated on my pride in him and my acceptance of him, knowing he would read my emotions. He smiled slightly and nodded his understanding of my silent message.

Focusing once more on this morning's meeting, I took a deep breath before proceeding to the next point. I was already anticipating Alice's objection. "And it would be best if only Esme and I greet Bella at first. Once she's adjusted to us, you both can join us."

As I predicted, Alice huffed in annoyance. She opened her mouth to argue, but I held up my hand to silence her. "Alice, please. I know you're excited that she's coming, but we need to do this right. It's very important to Edward."

She surprised me by rolling her eyes. "I know it's important to Edward, Carlisle. It's important to all of us. But, believe me, you're underestimating Bella. She's not easily frightened. You don't need to worry about her."

"Alice, what I've seen so far of this girl and what I know from Edward, all tells me she's courageous. However, we will do this right. For Edward's sake as well as Bella's. Please do it my way."

She sighed, "Okay, but I'm telling you this is silly."

"Another thing," I continued, ignoring Alice's comment. "First impressions have a very strong impact, especially on feelings of safety. Clothing is often the first thing a human will notice. Non-aggressive colors are best – in this case, shades of white and beige which will blend into our home's decor."

At my words, Alice's face darkened with rebellion. She crossed her arms over her red blouse defiantly. Her eyes dared me to say anything more.

Esme came to my rescue. "Please. Alice. Red? It's the color of blood and violence. Particularly since Bella knows about us. You have so many lovely things. Couldn't you just change your. . . ?"

"No," she stated flatly, interrupting her mother.

"Just . . ."

"No. Next point," she waved her hand to indicate I should continue.

Jasper hid his smirk. He knew how determined Alice could be when she wanted to be– particularly if it involved clothes. My eldest daughter did not have an exclusive on stubbornness.

I sighed in resignation. I didn't need to be psychic to know how this battle of wills would turn out. So I moved on. "That's it. Just calm, slow and gentle. Don't rush at her, and let her set the pace. And pray all goes well."

"Do you see if Bella's still coming? When will they get here?" Esme asked Alice eagerly.

"I can see her trying to decide what to wear . . . oh come on! You have to have more than one skirt!" Alice shook her head in disgust. "I'll have a lot of work to do with her – well, with her wardrobe. Ummm, they should be here in another half hour, if nothing changes. And . . . oh . . ." her face went suddenly blank and I wondered if she was still seeing Bella in her closet or if something else had drawn her attention.

Jasper must have sensed something more in Alice's vision. He stepped forward and put his arms around his wife.

We all waited for her to surface from her vision.

Then she blinked repeatedly and drew a deep breath. "We've got more company coming," she declared.

I frowned. "Who?"

"Our kind. I saw three of them – two males and a female. They should arrive shortly before dawn tomorrow."

"Are they . . . ?" Esme asked.

"Vegetarians? No, they're not."

"Oh dear." Esme's worry showed clearly in her voice and face.

"They won't come to town. It's us they'll want to meet. They're curious. I don't see any . . . incidents with anyone in Forks. It'll be okay, Esme." Alice took her mother's hand to comfort her.

"Three to seven are very good odds, Esme. They won't challenge us in our own territory, outnumbered as they are," Jasper was quick to comfort Esme as well.

"Nevertheless, I'll let Edward know. Undoubtedly he'll want to keep a sharp watch over Bella while the visitors are here," I added, picturing how protective Edward would become when he learned of this.

Deliberately changing the subject back to a lighter topic, I questioned Alice, "So, has Bella changed her mind? Are they still coming?"

"Yep," she chirped happily. "Twenty-five minutes and counting!"

Author's End Note: Please let me know if this is any good by leaving a review. I can't get any better if I don't know what you think!